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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Our Father

The "Our Father" is the nicname for Jesus' model prayer. Many Christian churches say it together at every service.The rooms of Alcoholic Anonymous contain people from every religion, socioeconomic group, and culture. They have one thing in common - addiction has leveled them and destroyed their lives.They’ve also discovered a secret. If they call out to God, He’ll help if they let Him, regardless of their circumstances or beliefs. While AA is careful not to identify with any particular religion or sect, the universal words of the Lord’s Prayer end many meetings. Like everyone else in the AA rooms, Jesus remains anonymous as they beg a common Father for the much-needed help.

Morning Meditation

Read Isaiah 64:8.
Isa 64:8

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. NIV

God is father to everyone, regardless of personal opinions. Enjoy that truth.
• Some reject the truth of God’s fatherhood. Allow the pain of that to wash over you.
• Offer yourself as clay for the master potter.

Morning Prayer

Pray to Our Father, asking for what you need.
• Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly and carefully.
• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.
• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.
• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

God is our Father. In the beginning, He created us in His image for His pleasure. He gave us free will, which we often use for our detriment. Because of our confusion and mistakes, God came to earth to show us how to live and love. On His journey to the cross, He took a brief moment to teach us how to communicate with Our Father.

Each of the scriptures below are written first in the King James translation and then in the paraphrase, The Message. Compare and contrast the meanings as you study this important prayer.

Read Matthew 6:9.

Matt 6:9

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. KJV

With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. The Message

Whose Father is the prayer to?

• What are we asking of our Father?

Jesus knew what He would be facing at the end of His journey on earth. The agonizing trip to the cross was the will of the Father and best for humanity.

Read Matthew 6:10.

Matt 6:10

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. KJV

Set the world right; Do what's best — as above, so below. The Message

Where is God’s will always done?

• Are you willing to pray for God’s will on earth regardless of what it means for you personally?

In Matthew 6:11, Jesus gave us permission to ask for our daily needs. Read and pray His simple prayer.

Matt 6:11

Give us this day our daily bread. KJV

Keep us alive with three square meals. The Message

Do you remember to pray daily for your needs?

• Are your daily needs met?

Not only did Jesus tell us to forgive, He showed us how to forgive by praying the words, ”Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) We witness His agony on the cross and willingness to forgive and become able to forgive others their petty wrongs against us.

Read Matthew 6:12.

Matt 6:12

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. KJV

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. The Message

What are the 2 parts of this prayer?

• How do you think forgiving and being forgiven are related?

Like us, Jesus was tempted and gave us hope by His stern words, “Get thee behind me Satan.” (Mark 8:33.) Read Matthew 6:13.

Matt 6:13

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: KJV

Matt 6:13

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. The Message

What is the prayer?

• What are the two things we need safety from in the paraphrase, The Message?

The last part of this prayer is not in the earliest manuscripts but I included it anyway because I like it and pray it. Read Matthew 6:13.

Matt 6:13

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. KJV

You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. The Message

Is God in charge of your life?

• Do you recognize His beauty?

By using the words, “Our Father,” Jesus meant to be inclusive and not exclusive. When I travel, talking to people about Jesus, I try not to debate their beliefs. I often encourage them to pray the words, “Our Father,” asking the God they don’t believe in to reveal Himself in truth and light. It has been my observation that when people sincerely pray this prayer, the truth of Jesus Christ becomes evident without my having to do, or say another thing besides letting them know I’m a Christian. Our Father is truly ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.


Every morning was the same. I arrived at the red brick Ruth N. Upson Elementary School and formed a line outside my classroom. When the first bell rang, wiggly excited children filed into the room to put away our coats and books. I can still smell the wooden floors, chalk, and the slightly sour cafeteria aroma that assaulted my senses as I left the fresh air and entered the musty damp building. By the time the second bell rang, we were in our seats waiting expectantly for the loud speaker.

The crackle and loud blaring feedback from the box in the corner of our ceiling announced that the principal was ready to begin. We stood, faced the flag, and laid our hands over our hearts in solemn pledge of allegiance to one nation under God. Then our principal led us in what she called the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Together, the Muslims, Jews, agnostics, and Christians prayed to one father, asking for deliverance from evil. I didn’t include the word atheist because those innocent young children hadn’t yet thought to reject Our Father. I did include agnostics, because some of the children were mature enough to begin a search for their Father, even if they hadn’t been introduced to Him in church. God answered our prayers and protected our schools from evil. We felt safe as we memorized spelling words and chased each other on the playground.

We all wondered what trespasses were and now, the translations use the words debt and debtors. As a first grader, my husband prayed, “Forgive us our trash baskets,” while wondering why we needed to be forgiven for using trash baskets. As we said these words, without understanding the meaning, God forgave us for our childhood pranks and antics and we found ourselves tolerant of the mistakes of those around us. I had bucked teeth and had to wear corrective shoes so children were occasionally mean to me. That early Morning Prayer gave hope and peace as I learned to forgive.

Regardless of our financial status, we all received our daily bread while at school. Christ’s kingdom ruled in our classrooms as our teachers lovingly taught orderly lessons. I remember few disruptions and no violence while sitting in those tiny desks. Mean teachers were so rare that I can still recall the one or two that walked menacingly through the halls.

We consider the Lord’s Prayer to be a Christian prayer, but as a young child, I didn’t. I’m Baptist and we don’t say that prayer in weekly services so I only had it memorized because of public school. In my innocence, I assumed it was for everyone and trusted God to answer it for everyone. Since no one mentioned the word Jesus or Christianity, Christ anonymously helped us all as we found unity in the words “Our Father.” No one complained about the words of that prayer as all children reverently repeated it together.

As a parent of children who grew up in schools not protected by that early Morning Prayer, I missed it. My children learned to take for granted the drug deals they witnessed and the hidden guns in the classroom. When my son was instrumental in saving the life of a student and heard the blast of a pistol going off 2 feet from him, I was proud of his heroic efforts but baffled that these were the same rooms that educated me. When my 8th grade daughter had to kick a fellow student to get him to remove his hands from her body, I was glad she defended herself but wondered why she had to. Where was God in these violent disorderly rooms?

For today, pray the Lord’s Prayer for our schools, life, and country. As we’ve seen from the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and our nation’s public schools of days long past, God answers prayer, even when people don’t understand what their words mean or to whom they are praying.

Journey to the Cross - God Will Send a Lamb

Sacrifice is the act of offering something or someone to a deity in homage. Humans apparently have a need for sacrifice since most religions have practiced some kind sacrificial rites. Sacrifice can also mean to forfeit something highly valued. Parents sacrifice time and money for their children. Soldiers sacrifice their lives for their country. God sacrificed His son for the world. Christians sacrifice our will to the Lamb.

Morning Meditation

Read Isaiah 53:7-10

Isa 53:7-10

He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off — and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he'd never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn't true. Still, it's what GOD had in mind all along, to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin so that he'd see life come from it — life, life, and more life. And GOD's plan will deeply prosper through him. The Message

This ancient prophesy was written centuries before Jesus was born. Ponder the wonder of it all.

• He gave His life as an offering for sin in order to see life come from it. Allow yourself to enjoy life, life, and more life.

• Allow God’s plan “to deeply prosper” through you.

Morning Prayer

Thank God for sending the Lamb.

• Offer everything to the Lamb of God.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

When we hold on to earthly things too deeply, God may ask us to give them up. When we become willing to release them, God often returns them to us. When we release anything to God, no matter how precious, what God gives in return is better than anything we had before. Confused? Abraham sure was.

God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son for many years. Finally, in their old age, God fulfilled that promise by sending them Isaac. God told Abraham to expect to father a nation through Isaac, but God later asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac’s life to Him.

Notice as you read Genesis 22:1-2 that Abraham could hear God’s voice and responded to Him immediately.

Gen 22:1-2

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, " Abraham!"

And he said, "Here I am."

He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." NASU

What were God’s instructions to Abraham?

• How do you think Abraham felt?

• How would you have felt?

Regardless of how Abraham felt, read his actions in Genesis 22:3-4.

Gen 22:3-4

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. NASU

What did Abraham do?

• What was noticeably missing from this journey?

• Do you think you could have been as obedient as Abraham?

Read Genesis 22:6-7.

Gen 22:6-7

So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!"

And he said, "Here I am, my son."

And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" NASU

Do you think Isaac was alarmed when he questioned his father?

Read Genesis 22:8.

Gen 22:8

Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together. NASU

What was Abraham’s answer?

• How do you think Abraham was feeling as they walked together?

• How would you feel as you took what you thought was your last walk with your only son?

Read Genesis 22:9-10.

Gen 22:9-10

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. NASU

What did Abraham do next?

• How do you think he felt as he bound Isaac?

• How do you think Isaac was feeling?

Abraham got a reprieve. This story is foreshadowing God’s sacrifice for the world but His son got no reprieve. Read Genesis 22:11-12.

Gen 22:11-12

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!"

And he said, "Here I am."

He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." NASU

What do you think Abraham was thinking and feeling as the angel of the Lord spoke?

• Do you think it was easier to untie Isaac then it was to tie him?

Read Genesis 22:13-14.

Gen 22:13-14

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. NASU

How do you think Abraham and Isaac felt when they saw the ram?

• A sacrifice was still necessary. How willing do you think the ram was to be sacrificed?

Most likely, Abraham was weak with relief to be returning home with his beloved son. God had put him through an ordeal. When Abraham chose obedience and put God ahead of His son, God’s grace allowed Abraham to keep his son. When God asks much, He also offers much. Read Genesis 22:15-17.

Gen 22:15-17

Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you. NASU

What was the promise?

• How did that promise come true?

The words Passover Lamb is in the Bible many times. It was used during religious celebrations, as atonement for sin, and as protection. Read Exodus 12:21-22.

Ex 12:21-22

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. NASUKJV

What where the Israelites to do with the blood of the lamb?

Read Exodus 12:23-24.

Ex 12:23-24

For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. NASU

How does the blood protect them?

Read the words of John the Baptist in John 1:29.

John 1:29

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. KJV

What does John the Baptist call Jesus?

• What was the role of the Lamb?

• Why do you think Jesus is called the Lamb of God?

Like the ancient Israelites, protected by the blood of the Passover Lamb, the blood of Jesus protects us. Sing with the angels as your read Revelations 5:12.

Rev 5:12

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." NASU

Because of the grace of Jesus, we no longer have to sacrifice blood from a lamb or any other animal. The lamb has been slain, His blood protectively on our foreheads. The Lord will pass by our door and not allow the destroyer to come into our house to smite us. Worthy is the Lamb!


A year after I lost my job, Bob lost his job. We were expecting it and Bob was even excited. We had our plans. We were going to sell our house and move to a university town, where Bob would get a PhD in robotics. Bob had dreamed about it for years. The day Bob got the news his job had ended he celebrated and I cried.

I wasn’t as happy. “I love my house,” I moaned as I sat looking at the shimmering waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. I argued with Bob and God but both insisted we put the house up for sale.

I whined to my friends but they took God’s side. “You shouldn’t love something that can’t love you back,” a friend said.

“You’ll have another house that you love just as much,” another comforted. I was miserable. It took weeks before I finally surrendered to God and allowed the “For Sale” sign to go in the front yard.

As people began to look at our house, I felt pain accompanied by peace. I knew I had done the right thing. God’s will had become more important than our house. Then, just as suddenly as God had said to sell the house, God whispered to our spirits, “Keep your house.”

Bob and I both heard that Still Small Voice but by this time, Bob and I had a firm plan and struggled to change it. My realtor was my best friend and she had gone to a lot trouble to list it so I was embarrassed to back out. I hate looking indecisive. As Bob and I discussed keeping the house, our fears took over. How could we afford it without jobs? Were we hearing God correctly?

God just kept saying the same thing. “Keep your house.”

In desperation, or possibly lack of faith, we asked God for a specific sign. Within moments of that prayer, we went outside and there was a double rainbow directly over our home. It didn’t touch anyone else’s house. We were so astounded we took pictures. We called our realtor and took the house off the market.

Bob has almost finished his PhD. We haven’t missed a single house payment. This house has appreciated more than our take-home salaries would have been had we worked during those few years. God faithfully provided a way to keep the house.

I now realize that to keep the house, I had to be willing to let it go. God and I both had to know that I loved following Him more than that house. When I finally turned the house over to God, He told us to keep it. That house is now God’s house and we offer it in service, any way He chooses. Four churches regularly use it for Bible Studies and retreats. We spend half of our time in the college town but our house usually stays filled with people. I don’t know how long we’ll have that house but it is surrendered to God.

Today, what is more important to you than the will of God? Surrender it and allow God provide a Lamb.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed are those who are Persecuted

Have you ever been persecuted? You probably didn’t feel blessed while it was happening. If you deserved persecution, this lesson isn’t for you. I have to confess that many times when I thought I was being righteous, God later humbled me. One of life’s ironies is that most people are righteous in their own eyes.  This is the last lesson on the Beatitudes. For purposes of this study, I have combined the last 2 Beatitudes because I’ve always thought they belonged together.

The Beatitudes were the equivalent to the “New Torah” or new laws to a new people of God – the Christian church. In this new world, called the Kingdom of God, things are not always as they seem. To get a feel for the power of the Beatitudes, you could start every Beatitude with the words, “Despite appearances to the contrary, blessed are the …”

There have been those occasions when doing the right thing got me into trouble. I’m just insecure enough that when people are upset with me, I automatically question myself, even if I knew I did the right thing. I’m grateful that the Beatitudes remind me that, despite appearances to the contrary, I am blessed when I’m persecuted for righteousness. When I’m in trouble for doing the right thing, it feels a lot like I’m in trouble for doing the wrong thing.
You listened to the voice of God,
• You did your best to follow that voice,
• The Bible supported what yo did
• Would do the same thing again,
• And still had people upset with you,

Keep reading. Today, we are talking to people persecuted for doing the right thing.

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:10-12.
Matt 5:10-12

Beatitude 8
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Beatitude 9
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. NIV

Let yourself remember times when you were persecuted for righteousness.
• Did you feel blessed?
• Let yourself rejoice and be glad, knowing that you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven.

Morning Prayer

If anyone is persecuting you, ask God to help you be honest to determine if you did anything wrong or are being persecuted for righteousness.

• Listen carefully to the voice of God.

• If your persecution is for the sake of righteousness, praise God for His blessing and watch for the kingdom of heaven.

• If not, confess and make amends.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

We already learned about the kingdom of Heaven in Day 23. Take a moment to review the devotion and refresh your memory. The kingdom of heaven is like:

Finding a precious pearl.

• Finding a priceless hidden treasure.

• Casting a fishnet out into the sea, catching many fish, and separating the good fish from the bad.

When being persecuted for righteousness, it’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves. That’s when I read the book of Job. No matter how difficult my circumstances are, Job’s have me beat. I’m grateful for the book of Job because it reminds me not to expect life on earth to the fair. I may not like it, but at least God warned me.

Job was a righteous man, blessed spiritually, personally, and financially. He had a loving family, wealth, and good friends.

Read Job 1:1.

Job 1:1

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. NASU

Describe Job’s character.

Read Job 1:2-3.

Job 1:2-3

Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. NASU

What were his earthly blessings?

Job was about to go through a test. God and Satan had an argument and Satan issued a challenge. Read Satan’s words to God in Job 1:9-11.

Job 1:9-11

Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." NASU

Why did Satan believe Job was righteous?
• What did Satan suggest to God?

It does seem easy to be righteous when everything is going right. The true test of righteousness is how we react under pressure. God decided to prove a point to Satan and to everyone who would later read this story. Read Job 1:12.

Job 1:12
Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. NASU

What did God give Satan permission to do?

• What condition did he put on Satan?

Over the next few chapters, Satan persecuted Job by stripping every earthly thing Job held dear. Job lost his health, property, family, and community respect and yet remained faithful – thus giving us all hope that we could remain faithful to God in the face of any calamity.

Unfortunately, Job’s family and friends didn’t see his losses as a blessing and chose to add their own persecution. They added insult to injury by suggesting his problems were due to his own sin. As Satan persecuted Job for his righteousness, Job’s friends and family joined the party. Read Job 2:9-10.

Job 2:9-10

Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!"

But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. NASU

What did his wife suggest?

• What was Job’s answer?

Read Job’s lament about his friends in Job 16:1-5.

Job 16:1-5

Then Job defended himself: "I've had all I can take of your talk. What a bunch of miserable comforters! Is there no end to your windbag speeches? What's your problem that you go on and on like this? If you were in my shoes, I could talk just like you. I could put together a terrific harangue and really let you have it. But I'd never do that. I'd console and comfort, make things better, not worse! The Message

How does Job respond to his friends?

• How do you think he felt about his friends’ accusations?

Throughout the Bible, we see people persecuted for righteousness. All of the disciples but one died for their faith. King David of the Old Testament had enemies at every corner. These human people struggled to interpret their earthly circumstances with eternal eyes. In the end of the book of Job, God did restore Job’s earthly blessings. Read Job 42: 10.

Job 42:10

The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. NASU

What did Job have to do before his fortunes are restored?

• Do you think having everything restored made up for all that had happened to him?

While Job did have other children and his health and fortunes restored, we are aware of how tragic his prior circumstances were. We wonder if his new children made up for the grief he felt over losing his first children. How did he live with the memory of what happened to him? Did he suffer from posttraumatic shock syndrome or need antidepressants? Alternatively, did he learn the lesson of how temporal and unimportant earthly blessings are and come out of the experiences with a faith stronger then ever?

This book of Job has troubled people for thousands of years. Certainly, it makes the point about the ebb and flow of earthly life. It warns us about what we can expect from our time on earth but most of us hate this news. For me, the greatest lesson of the book of Job is the privilege he had in serving God. What he went through took place in just a blip of eternal time and yet he has the honor of being a role model for everyone following God while on earth. Job is perhaps the oldest book in the Bible. Imagine his pleasure in his eternity, knowing God is still using him as a teacher for us today. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Job was blessed.


My hands trembled as I opened my report card. I was in 5th grade and always got good grades but I still agonized over what would be written on the card. Wonder of wonders, I had made straight A’s. Usually, a couple of B’s found their way to my card but this time, those beautiful A’s peppered the row. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I bounced with glee. “Look,” I bubbled to my friend Janice. “I got all A’s!” She merely nodded.

I didn’t notice Janice’s lack of enthusiasm or the fact that she didn’t share her grades as I continued my anticipation of surprising my parents. I put the card in my notebook to go home.

When I arrived home, I opened my notebook, looking for this affirming card. It wasn’t there. Could it have fallen out? I was crushed with disappointment. My parents were good sports as I searched for the missing card, babbling about the grades.

Later that night, the phone rang. A neighbor had found card on the ground. “Cheryle must have dropped it,” my mother said.

“I don’t think so,” the neighbor said. “When I took it out of the envelope, it was torn into little pieces. My first thought was that a child had gotten bad grades and had torn it up but when I saw the A’s, I knew something else had happened.”

As Mama told me, I was confused. “Why would someone tear up that card?”

Mama sat me down and explained about jealously. “Did you tell someone about the card?” I remembered my conversation with Janice and her silence about her own grades. For the first time in my life, I realized that the world might not share the joy of my accomplishments. After that, I was sensitive about how I talked about my grades but I still didn’t understand how someone could tear up a card that looked like that.

In junior high, I was on the majorette squad. On afternoon, we went on a shopping trip to the mall. I noticed that two of the majorettes wore aprons with big pockets and thought it was strange. I was shocked when I saw them scooping earrings from the jewelry into those deep pockets.

What are you doing?” I exclaimed.

If you know what’s good for you, be quiet!” one of them threatened.

“But it’s stealing,” I continued.

“Hush,” she demanded, storming out of the store.

When she got outside, she explained as if she was talking to a child. “Getting jewelry is easy. They just leave it out on the counter so they have to expect this. I was nervous the first time but Carol taught me how easy it was. All you have to do is wear big pockets, wait until no one is looking, and scoop. You’ll have all the jewelry you ever wanted. I’ll lend you my apron in the next store so you can try it.”

No,” I said indignantly. “It’s wrong! We have to go back in there and give these back.” Her eyes hardened as she reached her hands into her pockets and shoved a pair of earrings into my jeans pockets. “You were with us and you walked out of that store. Now you have a pair in your pockets. If you tell on us, I’ll tell them that you stole right along with us. You’ll get in just as much trouble as us.”

Scared and intimidated, I rushed home. Terrified I would be seen, I kept the earrings hidden deep in my pockets. When I was finally safe at home, I showed the earrings to Mama and told her my horror story.

I have no memory of what happened to those cheap plastic earrings but I do remember Mama’s explanation. “Those girls are not Christians so they don’t know right from wrong. If you’re going to stay on the majorette squad, you’ll have to be careful. You need to influence them and not the other way around.”

“Why were they so mean to me?” I asked. “I just wanted to do the right thing.”

“Because it reminded them that what they were doing wrong,” Mama explained. “They got mad because they felt guilty.”

I spent the rest of my high school years on that squad. I wasn’t the only Christian, but I was in the minority. I never forgot the lesson I learned that afternoon. I hung out with those girls at school and went to their chaperoned parties but I never again accompanied them to the mall or went to parties where I knew something untoward would be going on.

Everyone on that squad knew I was a Christian and, over time, I became their confessor and counselor. I suspect I wasn’t the only one who learned a lesson that afternoon because they never again let me see their dark side in action. Occasionally, in need of absolution, they confessed their dark secrets but they didn’t insist or suggest I join their wicked adventures.

What lessons have you learned from doing the right thing? I thank God for a Godly mother who explained what was happening to me or I could have been shamed about my grades or seduced into thievery. For today, stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences.

Journey to the Cross - Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Who is your favorite peacemaker? Our dictionary says a peacemaker is one that makes peace or settles disputes. Synonyms are mediator, soother, and go between. The antonym is troublemaker. The definition of troublemakers is one who stirs up strife. Who do yo know that stirs up strife?

In my travels, many have shared their reasons for not going to church. Most often, those reasons involved reactions to troublemakers in the body of Christ. One man had been hurt by the actions of another man. He said, “If this man was an example of the body of Christ, I don’t want to be part of that body.” This angry man hadn’t been to church in years.

Church bodies usually rebel against troublemakers. When rebelled against, troublemakers are hurt and/or surprised because they sincerely believed they had the church’s best interests at heart. I’ve met many of these wounded troublemakers.

One woman said, “I was the only spiritual person in that church. I only wanted what was best for them. When I tried to help, no one listened to me. I finally left the church.”

“Tell me about the kinds of ways you tried to help,” I gently asked. I cringed as I listened to her behavior at church business meetings. She’d criticized programs where people were working hard and doing their best. She had a PhD and offered herself as the expert on many subjects. She constantly made suggestions to the pastor about ways to improve his sermons. She questioned the way the church was spending money. This poor woman was offended that people didn’t want her advice. She cared about the church and thought she was doing the right thing. The congregation was glad to see her leave and no one had called to invite her back.

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:9.

Matt 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. NASU

Let the peace of God fill your soul.

• Are you a peacemaker or troublemaker?

• Do people call you a child of God?

• Allow God to search your heart.

Morning Prayer

Ask God to help you be a peacemaker.

• If you have been a troublemaker, ask for forgiveness.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

The 7th Beatitude says blessed are the peacemakers. The promise that goes with it is “they shall be called sons of God.” Note that it doesn’t say they shall “be” sons of God. We may be sons of God but if we don’t act like it, the world won’t call us sons of God. The word “called” is in each translation I read. Also, note that the definition of peacemaker doesn’t say “makes peace or settles disputes unless there is a good reason to argue.” The implication is that making peace is more important than being right or winning a point.

The promise that goes with being a peacemaker is about what the world calls us. In other words, does the world see us as sons of God or as sons of the world?

Think of the church troublemakers you have known. Did you perceive them as being influential loving members of your church body or did you wish they would be quiet and perhaps even go away? The truth is, while troublemakers usually view themselves as enlightened or courageous people willing to stand up for what is right, most people just view them as troublemakers.

Read the two paraphrases below for Matthew 5:9.

Matt 5:9

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family. The Message

Matt 5:9

Happy are the peacemakers -- because they shall be called Sons of God. YLT

According to the first paraphrase above, when are we blessed?

• What is the promise of the first paraphrase?

• In the second paraphrase above, how does it say peacemakers feel?

When we feel as if others are wrong or they have treated us unfairly, the natural tendency is to fight back. Unfortunately, that isn’t scriptural. Read Luke 6:27-30.

Luke 6:27-30

I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. NASU

How are we to treat our enemies?

• What are we to do for those who mistreat us?

• If someone hits us on the cheek, what are we supposed to do?

• If someone takes our coat, what else should we give him?

Read Jesus’ words in Mark 9:42.

Mark 9:42

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. KJV

What is better than offending someone?

Stirring up trouble, for any reason, feels bad. It feels bad because it offends people and is wrong. Regardless of the righteousness of our position or motives, causing strife is wrong because it ruins our witness to the world. When we are troublemakers, the world does not see us as “sons of God.”


I was in a panic. I’d known for several months that my publisher needed a professional photograph by the first of March. I’d gone to the trouble of having a photographer come out and take pictures. Then, my photographer and I both got busy and let the days slip into months without turning the digital pictures into paper pictures. Now, it was 3 weeks past the deadline and my publisher needed that picture.

Frantically, I called my photographer. He apologized for taking so long and immediately e-mailed his pick of the pictures for my publisher. “Put it on your camera stick and take it somewhere to get printed,” he suggested. “Most drugstores will print it right away.”

Bob and I went up to the local pharmacy and put my stick in the machine. “That’s a great picture,” the clerk pleasantly complimented. “Who took it?”

“My photographer,” I said innocently.

Her features hardened and her voice changed. It felt as is I could hear her saying, Aha. Caught you! What she said was, “I won’t sell you that print unless you have written permission from the photographer.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “This is on my camera stick. My photographer e-mailed me this today so I could bring it over here.”

“Sorry,” she said. “I won’t sell it to you.”

I could feel myself getting mad. Bob tensed as we both prepared for a fight. “I want to talk to your manager,” Bob insisted.

She left to get the manager. When we explained the situation to him, he smiled and agreed to sell us the picture. The woman behind the counter argued with him. “You can’t sell it to them. That corporate e-mail said that if it looked professional, we couldn’t sell it to them. We have rules for a reason.”

The manager looked at us apologetically. “I’m sorry but she’s right.”

“Show us the e-mail,” Bob demanded. When we looked at the e-mail, there were 3 specific criteria for professional photographs, none of which our picture met. Our photographer had taken this picture on my front porch so the background wasn’t solid. It was taken outside so the lighting wasn’t professional. There was no copyright notice or watermark on the picture. Yes, it was a wonderful photograph but it didn’t meet the criteria the drugstore executives had set in order to refuse to print the picture.

“According to this e-mail, you can sell me my picture,” I said to the frowning woman.

“Well, I’m not going to,” she said smugly. “There were other e-mails that had other criteria and I just can’t find them right now. I can tell a professional photographer took this.”

He did,” I insisted, getting angrier. “He also said I owned it and could reprint it any time I wished. There is a reason he e-mailed the file without a copyright on it.”

Bob looked at the manager. “This is your call, not hers. You know it’s OK to sell us this picture.”

“Sorry,” he said. “We’ve been sued so we have rules.”

“But we’ve read your rules and this pictures doesn’t violate them,” I said indignantly.

“Is there anyone else you can call?” Bob demanded.

“Yes,” the manager said. He left to go call his boss. He came back shortly with a solution. “Call your photographer. If he gives verbal permission, we’ll print it.” Thank goodness, our photographer answered his phone. Naturally, he said we could print the picture.

As the woman behind the counter printed our picture, she continued to debate us. Bob and I couldn’t leave it alone, trying to explain why she should have just sold us the picture. “Don’t you understand,” I tried again. “There is a reason they put the criteria in there. This picture didn’t meet the criteria.” The woman set her jaw as she worked on our pictures. She still wasn’t happy about selling us the pictures.

Suddenly, I was aware of how badly I felt. I had won the war but still was upset. I left Bob to pay and went outside to pray. I had a queasy feeling that God had just given me one of those uncomfortable life lessons. When I went back inside, Bob and the woman were still arguing. I heard her say, “People steal from photographers all the time. We have to protect them.”

I looked at her and said, “I would never steal. I’m in a ministry.” She wasn’t impressed and didn’t ask what kind of ministry. I didn’t offer further explanation. As I walked out, I realized that this woman worked at a store a few blocks from me and I wouldn’t have any credibility if I tried to tell her about the love of Jesus.

I went home and started writing this devotion. It’s a dangerous thing to dare to become a Christian writer because God sends you plenty of things to write about. I’ve found that if I presume to write about a scripture, He insists I know what I’m talking about. I humbly write to you today that when I left that store, I was unhappy and the employees of that store would not have called me a child of God. I am a child of God but they would not have called me one. I may have been right but I had stirred up trouble in that store.

For today, if you feel wronged, learn from my mistake. Stop before you act. Instead of asking if you are right or wrong, ask if you are being a peacemaker. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. When Bob and I got home, all I said was, “That didn’t feel very good.” He agreed. Trust me, being a peacemaker feels better than winning or being right.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Is It I Lord?

Have you ever been betrayed? As I’ve traveled the streets of America, I’ve met countless broken people who have been betrayed by others. As they try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, they struggle to find the meaning behind what happened to them. As happened to our Savior Jesus, their betrayer had turned them over for little more than a few paltry pieces of silver.

I met Jim and his young son James in New Mexico. James managed the shop that was putting a new tire on poor limping Happy. As James stood behind the counter taking my tire order, I noticed the haggard expression of what I call the “ICU Waiting Room Look.”

After turning the keys over to Jim, I sat down to watch cartoons with little James. “I don’t like this show,” I complained to James.

“Why not?” He asked.

“The adults and children are always fighting. In my family, we love each other,” I told him. “We try to be nice to each other.”

“Not in mine,” James said glumly as he shared their tale of betrayal. His mother had left them to move in with another man. Since James’ older brothers and sisters were from a previous marriage, she had taken everyone but him. James and Jim had packed up and moved to New Mexico to start their lives over and be a little closer to family.

I’m sorry James,” I said. “Grownups do confusing things sometimes.”

He nodded. Changing the subject, I started telling him about the wonderful church I had visited that morning. “My church sometimes helps me with things I don’t understand,” I told him.

“I miss my church,” 8-year-old James confessed. “Daddy hasn’t found us one here.”

I immediately went to the counter to talk to Jim. He was surprised at his son’s need. “I can’t make his mother come home but I guess I could take him back to church,” he admitted. “Thanks. I guess I could also get him back into Karate. Maybe it’s time to get things back to normal.”

I had visited a church that morning that turned out to be near their home. “I had actually been thinking about visiting there,” Jim gasped in surprise when I mentioned the church. We both knew God had orchestrated our time together. I left knowing that God was going to heal James and Jim’s brokenness if they let Him.

As people betrayed by co-workers, employers, church members, pastors, spouses, friends, and others share their stories with me, I am thankful that Jesus shared His experiences with betrayal so I can share it with others. We learn from Jesus’ experience that God’s plans work through everything, including brutal betrayal.

Morning Meditation

Read Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24:9-13.

Matt 24:9-13

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. NIV

Let Jesus’ bleak warning wash over you.

• Let the hope in Jesus’ words strengthen you.

Morning Prayer

Take time to remember those who have betrayed you.

• Pray for your betrayers.

• Thank Jesus for warning you that people would betray you.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

It is said that if you are in a room of twenty-one people, seven will love you, seven won’t have an opinion, and seven won’t like you at all. Certainly, this generalization won’t be true in every or even most situations but its point is well taken. We can’t control how others see or feel about us and we often have no idea of the schemes that might be going on in their minds.

Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples. He had traveled with Jesus, listening to His sermons and watching His miracles. Judas was trusted enough to be the disciple that handled everyone’s money. Read his words of betrayal in Matthew 26:14-16.

Matt 26:14-16

Then one of the Twelve-the one called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. NIV

What motivated Judas?

• What price did Judas put on Jesus?

Jesus knew of the betrayal and warned all of them. Here we see a glimpse of the humanity and insecurity of each disciple as they ask, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Read Jesus’ warning and their response in Matthew 26:21-24.

Matt 26:21-24
And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." NIV

How did the disciples feel about the upcoming betrayal?
• Why do you think they asked, “Surely not I, Lord?”
• What warning does Jesus give about the betrayer?

Read Judas’ hypocritical words in Matthew 26:25.

Matt 26:25

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"

Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you." NIV

How do you think Judas felt as Jesus revealed what He knew of Judas?

We’ve already read about Jesus’ agonizing time in the garden in a previous devotion and we know that Jesus’ heart was broken. Read again His words in Matthew 26:45-46.

Matt 26:45-46

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" NIV

What had already happened to Jesus?

• What does Jesus call Judas?

Imagine the disciple’s alarm as they witnessed Judas leading a mob. Read Matthew 26:47-49.

Matt 26:47-49
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.NIV

Who sent the mob?
• How did Judas identify Jesus?

The book of Luke gives us some additional insight about Judas. Read Luke 22:2-6.

Luke 22:2-6
Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. NIV

Who was behind Judas’ actions?

• How did the Chief Priests feel about Judas’ betrayal?

• Do you think Judas could have rebuked Satan’s temptation?

Like most that succumb to Satan’s temptation, Judas expected to be able to enjoy his reward for the betrayal. Read Matthew 27:3-5.

Matt 27:3-5
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."

"What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. NIV

How did Judas feel after he betrayed Jesus?
• What did Judas try to do?
• What did Judas end up doing with the money?
• Do you think Judas could have been saved if He had turned to Jesus instead of killing himself?

The story of Judas’ betrayal reminds us of the pitfalls of giving in to Satan’s temptation. It also reminds those betrayed that betrayers suffer far worse than those they betray. It proves the point that guilt and remorse for sin are not enough without the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ. Instead of turning to Jesus and living in the grace of a Savior who forgives all, Judas chose to let the guilt of his transgressions destroy him. Without grace, the burdens of our lives are too much to bear.


When I was about 12 years old, I had my first experience with betrayal. My best friend, Christie, lived behind me. From the time we were small, we rushed outside every morning, looking for each other. There was a fence dividing our property. We climbed the fence so often that Daddy built us steps over the fence so we could more easily travel back and forth.

On school mornings, Christie tossed her books into my yard, scampered over the fence and knocked on my door so we could walk to Ruth N. Upson Elementary School together. After school, we spent our afternoons drawing chalk Hop Scotch patterns on the hot pavement of my cement driveway or sitting on my red brick porch playing Jacks. On weekends, we had sleepovers in the green shuttered white dollhouse that Daddy built behind our house. We giggled as we whispered our secrets.

When we entered 7th grade, Christie walked up one day and announced, “You are no longer my best friend. I have a new friend who is better than you. I plan to spend my time with her from now on.”

"What did I do wrong?” I cried. Christie ignored my brokenhearted pleas as she walked off. Never again did she climb the fence.

I went home and cried as my mother held me. “I don’t know what I did wrong,” I sobbed.

“Honey,” Mama consoled. “It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. Sometimes people just let you down. You’ll find another best friend.”

Of course, Mama was right. Little by little, my heart healed as new friends entered my life. Daddy took down the fence steps that were a painful reminder of the lost friendship. Eventually Christie moved way from neighborhood and school and I lost touch with her.

God eventually sent Nancy Edwards, who continues to be my closest friend today. Nancy and I double dated in high school and went to our Junior and Senior Prom together with the men who later became our husbands. I was her Maid of Honor at her wedding and she was my Matron of Honor. She had I have shared our lives, joys, and sorrows. Nancy challenges me when I’m on the wrong track, encourages me when I’m discouraged, travels with me when I want to play, and listens when I want to vent. We’ve shared this precious sisterhood for most of our lives.

A couple of years back, Nancy and I were reminiscing about our school days. For some reason, I told her the story of Christie. Nancy and I knew each other in Junior High School but didn’t become close until High School. After she heard the story, Nancy went to laughing. “Cheryle, I was the friend that Christie dumped you for. We hung out for about a couple of years until she dumped me for another ‘best friend.’ I also wondered what I had done wrong.”

The same girl had betrayed Nancy and me. Christie was the betrayer but like the disciples, in our insecurities, Nancy and I had asked, “Is it I Lord?” Our betrayal was painful at the time but it taught us a lesson about true friendship. When true friendship came along, we recognized it and held on to it. After Christie betrayed Nancy, Nancy prayed for a best friend who would love her through everything. While our friendship has had its rocky moments, it has survived the test of time and trials, always becoming stronger. We wonder if poor Christie is still going through life, betraying one potential friend after another.

If someone has betrayed you today, understand that like Judas, they are one who will suffer the most. Pray for them.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

I have a friend who constantly reminds me to check my motives. She helped me understand that you can do the right thing for the wrong reason. While it is true that right is right, when our motives aren’t pure, we suffer.

Our family has seven seats for the Jacksonville Jaguar games. Each week, phone lines buzz as we decide who is going to the weekly game. One Sunday, it worked out that we were only using 3 tickets. My 17-year-old nephew Jim was taking his girlfriend, and my father, Grandpap.

The night before the game, my daughter Kelley got engaged. We invited family members not attending the game to Sunday lunch to make the surprise engagement announcement. Jim found out about the secret announcement and told Granpap that he should probably miss the game and go to lunch instead. Grandpap complied which meant Jim got to spend an afternoon at the game alone with Alex. Our entire family joked about Jim’s motives when Grandpap showed up for lunch.

The next day at piano lessons, I teased Jim about encouraging Grandpap to miss the game. Jim grinned and sheepishly asked, “Did I do something wrong?”

I laughed and said, “I guess that depends on your motives. Were you really concerned about Grandpap missing the engagement announcement or were you just trying to get an afternoon alone with Alex?”

Jim got quiet a moment and finally said, “The truth is, both were true. I was worried about Grandpap missing the announcement but I also wanted to be alone with Alex. Is that bad?”

Perhaps the reason the Bible talks so much about a pure heart is that it’s hard to tell when we have one. Our behavior might look the same either way. We often benefit either way. The promise that goes with a pure heart is our ability to see God. I told Jim, “Maybe the real test about your motives being pure is whether or not you saw God that afternoon.”

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:8.

Matt 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. NIV

Think of the many ways you serve God.

• Are your motives pure?

• Do you see God in your service to Him and others?

• Let yourself gaze “wide eyed” at His glory.

• If you have trouble seeing God, let Him purify your heart.

Morning Prayer

Ask God to help you check your motives for purity.

• Ask God to help you have a pure heart.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

The Greek word for “see God” used in Matthew 5:8 can actually mean to stare with wide-eyed wonder. Read the following paraphrases of Matthew 5:8.

Matt 5:8

You're blessed when you get your inside world — your mind and heart — put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. The Message

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. NLT

What does it mean to have your inside world put right?

• What do you think having your inside world right has to do with seeing God in your outside world?

Like any good pastor, when Jesus preached this particular sermon, He was quoting the Bible. Read Psalms 73:1.

Ps 73:1

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! NASU

Who was God going to be good to?

Read Psalms 24:4-5.

Ps 24:4-5

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation. NASU

What is the definition of a pure heart?

• What is the reward of a pure heart?

Read Psalms 18:24-27.

Ps 18:24-27

Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, And with the crooked You show Yourself astute. For You save an afflicted people, But haughty eyes You abase. NASU

What does God show those who are kind?

• What does God show those who are blameless?

• What does God show those who are pure?

• What does God show those who are crooked?

• How does God treat those who are haughty?

The interesting thing is that God’s work can be done even if our motives aren’t pure. Read Philippians 1:15-18.

Phil 1:15-18

It's true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they'll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I'm out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better — they think — for them.

So how am I to respond? I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! The Message

Read the first paragraph of the above scripture. What are the motives of the two groups of people?

• Now read the second paragraph. What was Paul’s reaction to their differing motives?

When I travel across America, I often hear the words, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” I always ask what they mean by that. Invariably, the response has spirituality as good and religion as bad. I always suggest that they look to the Bible to find the definition of “pure” religion. Using that definition, no one can find fault with religion. Read James 1:27.

James 1:27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. KJV

What is pure undefiled religion?

Unfortunately, not everyone who calls himself or herself religious has a pure heart. Apparently, the churches Paul mentored had similar problems. Read 1 Timothy 1:5-7.

1 Tim 1:5-7

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.


What is the goal of our churches instruction?

• What happens in some churches?

While having wrong motives may harm others, the consequences to us are worse. Read James 4:3.

James 4:3

You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. NASU

What happens when we ask with wrong motives?

As with everything, we must remember that these scriptures are to us. It is our job to check our own motives. It is not our job to check or ever suspect the motives of others. Read 1 Corinthians 4:5.

1 Cor 4:5

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.


Whose job is it to bring to light what is hidden in darkness?

• Whose job is it to disclose motives of our heart?

• Where does our praise come from?

Being honest about our motives often takes hard spiritual work but it is worth the struggle. The promise for having a pure heart is that we will see God.


I have a confession to make. In my service as a church musician, my motives have not always been pure. I grew up taking piano lessons in a competitive environment. Playing piano was about being on stage, impressing an audience, and winning competitions. It often puzzled me that people seemed to actually enjoy it.

In my early adult years, I occasionally served as church pianist. Those were not happy times as I obsessed about preparation, stressed over each mistake, and thrived on affirmations. My motives had little to do with service and everything to do with impressing the congregation with my skills and willingness to serve.

No matter how hard I worked, I was unhappy with myself. I certainly didn’t see God in the worship services. I was too busy seeing myself and judging what I now know were performances. Eventually, it became so burdensome; I dropped out of musical service.

About the time I dropped out of playing for services, my husband dropped in. He started singing in the choir and playing bass guitar in our contemporary service. I was astounded by how much he enjoyed it. For him, every service was worship and he participated with a servant’s heart. He actually said, “I love singing in choir. It’s a place where I don’t have to be the best or in charge. I just serve.” I was confused. One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy singing in the choir was that I would never be the best singer. I had some work to do.

I got honest with God about my music. I confessed my motives and asked God for a servant’s heart. My church asked me to play for a small mission they were starting. I knew God was giving me a chance to practice serving with humility. For a year, I was faithful to that mission, learning weekly how to offer my music to God. I prayed about every selection. Instead of picking the hardest offertory to perform, I picked something that I could easily prepare and that would help the congregation quietly worship. The pressure of a good performance was gone and suddenly I could see God through my music.

My attitude about serving as a church musician is now completely different. I play when asked but don’t compete for positions. Usually my piano playing is used for nothing more than accompanying a Sunday School class in the singing of a simple hymn but I feel as if I am playing for the King of Kings. I love singing in the choir and grieve the times when I am unable to participate. What joy I was missing when my music was for nothing more than showing off!

Think of how you are serving God. Get honest with yourself and check your motives. Perhaps the most valid test is to ask yourself if you can see God in your service. If your heart isn’t pure, do yourself a favor. Confess and ask God for help. He is faithful. He will bless you beyond anything you can imagine!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed are the Merciful

"Mommy - they killed Bambi's mommy," Kelley wailed.  Her loud sobbing almost got us ejected from the theater. My daughter has the spiritual gift of mercy. We didn’t know that when she was younger. All that we knew was that sad movies made her wail. Before I understood her spiritual gift, we teased her about being a "dramma queen." 

When she was 4, she came out of her Presbyterian Day School with tears pouring down her face. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Mommy, they killed him!” she wept, shoulders shaking. “How could they do that?

“Killed who?” I asked in a panic.

Jesus,” she cried. “Why would the world kill Jesus?” It was Easter and the teacher had told the children the story of the crucifixion. I held her as I tried to give an explanation for something that that I didn’t understand. Seeing the crucifixion through my daughter’s merciful eyes changed my emotional response to the Easter season.

Kelley’s dramatic empathy and compassion became a family joke. We’d say things like, “There goes Kelley again” when the tears would begin to flow. We felt guilty when she took a spiritual gifts test and we found out mercy was her strongest spiritual gift. The rest of us had those annoying gifts like leadership, prophecy, and teaching. None of us really understood mercy until we let Kelley become our teacher.

The Greek word used for merciful in Matthew 5:7 is eleemon and it means compassionate. Our dictionary definition says mercy is compassionate treatment. The 5th Beatitude we shall study is mercy.

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:7.

Matt 5:7

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. NIV

Let yourself feel compassion for a mother who watched her son be crucified.

• Now turn that compassion to our savior, guilty of nothing, yet dying on the cross.

• Finally, try to allow yourself to feel mercy towards Jesus’ accusers and murderers.

Morning Prayer

If mercy is your spiritual gift, thank God for it.

• If mercy is difficult for you, ask God to send you a teacher.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

Have you ever found yourself saying, “He deserved what he got?” What about, “I don’t feel sorry for her. She was asking for it?” Perhaps even worse is, “Thank goodness. I’m glad he finally got what he had coming to him.” How is your compassion? The promise that goes with blessed are the merciful is mercy for ourselves. Do you ever need mercy from God or a relative or friend? The best way to get it is to give it.

Read Matthew 5:7 from the two paraphrases below. Compare and contrast them with the translation above.

Matt 5:7

You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for. The Message

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. NLT

What are the differences?

• What happens when we are merciful?

• What conclusions can you draw?

In an earlier lesson, we talked about forgiveness. Perhaps mercy is a step past forgiveness because we move past anger and on to compassion for the people who have wronged us. Read Psalms 86:15.

Ps 86:15

But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth. NASU

How is God described?

Luke 6:36-38 instructs us to be merciful and then goes on to explain merciful behavior.

Luke 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. NASU

What happens if we don’t judge?

• What happens if we don’t condemn?

• What happens if we pardon?

• What happens when we give?

• How are we measured?

Have you ever met someone who was cruel? Read Proverbs 11:17.

Prov 11:17

The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm. NASU

What does a merciful man do for himself?

• What does a cruel man do for himself?

If you want to learn about mercy, read the short one-chapter book of Jude. The chapter begins with a prayer. Read Jude 1-2.

Jude 1-2

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. NIV

Who is the prayer for?

• What is the prayer?

It then goes on to describe the horrors they are facing. Evil people surround them. The book describes what should happen to those people. Read Jude 12-13.

Jude 12-13

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted-twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. NIV

What kind of men live among them?

• What is the fate of these evil people?

The faith of the Christians was slipping so Jude reminded them that God had warned them about what to expect. Read Jude 18-19.

Jude 18-19

In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

What are we to expect in the last days?

He then reminds them about the mercy of God. Read Jude 20-21.

Jude 20-21

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

What are we to do when surrounded by evil?

• What are we waiting for?

And finally, he tells them to have mercy for those struggling. Read Jude 22-23.

Jude 22-23

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. NASU

How are we to feel towards those who doubt?

• How do we help those struggling?

• What emotion goes with mercy for those who seem so far gone?

• How are we to feel about the sin they are committing?

Throughout the Bible, God says to hate the sin and love the sinner. We’re allowed to detest actions of some. We can be terrified by the mistakes they are making but we should always feel compassion about what they are bringing on themselves.


Bob and I spent last Friday frolicking at the zoo with our 2-year-old grandson, Noah. We rode the zoo train and tooted right along with the whistle. We sang animal songs as we passed each animal’s home. We giggled at the monkey’s antics and delighted as the lorikeets landed on our shoulders. We slid down the slides in the playground and bought a toy alligator in the gift shop. It was a perfect day.

Not all grandmas were having such a perfect day. I noticed one grandma scream, “Stop it! You have to calm down.” The child was bouncing with excitement over the monkeys. When we got to the rest room, she waited outside while her grandchildren’s mother went inside. After a couple of minutes of watching her grandchildren play tag in the roomy outside non crowded waiting area, the grandma marched into the rest room and said, “You’d better hurry up before I kill your children.” The mother must have believed her because she started rushing.

Another grandma walked around the zoo carrying a ruler. Every time a child raised their voice, ran, or exhibited any kind of excitement or enthusiasm, grandma crashed the hard ruler down on their legs, leaving ruler shaped whelps. When the 3-year old cried over a stinging leg, this grouchy mean grandma continued to strike him, trying to get him quiet. I glared.

“How can they treat children this way,” I fumed to my husband. “If you can’t play at a zoo, where can you play? These grandmas need to learn to have fun.”

I occasionally spanked my children but only when they were openly defiant and nothing else worked. The times I had to spank hurt me. They were private moments when I had to love my children enough to set a serious boundary. I have never spanked someone else’s child and I pray spanking a grandchild will never be my responsibility. My mental fuming at this abuse went on for days.

Then, I began writing this devotion. I knew I wanted to write this story. I decided to talk about how little compassion these wicked grandmothers were showing their grandchildren. I intended to make the point that they were teaching a behavior to these children that would later be returned to them. I planned on ending with saying that when we show mercy, we are given mercy. Since these grandmas showed so little mercy, they would most likely receive little compassion back from the grandchildren.

Then I read the Bible passages about mercy. I realized the story was about my own lack of compassion for these harried unhappy grandmas. As God began to convict me, I began to feel compassion. I grew sad that they would never have the joy that I have with Noah. I felt badly for how these children would one day treat these women. I realized that these two women’s grandmas had probably treated them the same way. I thought back to my own sweet grandma and felt blessed. I remembered rocking my grandma, her frail body in my arms, during her last days on earth. These grandmas would most likely never experience being rocked by a loving grandchild.

I still hate what those women did to the excited sweet little children but God gave me compassion for those troubled miserable women who didn’t know how to have fun at the zoo. Now I understood the scripture. This scripture is to us – to you and me. We may judge the sin but we may not judge the sinner. It goes even further than that. We are to love the sinner – with our entire soul, mind, heart, and strength. We can feel the compassion of Jesus by seeing what the sin is doing them. Maybe that’s what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This Lenten season, is the behavior of someone upsetting you? Look at the world through their eyes. Seek compassion instead of judgment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed Are They That Thirst After Righteousness

“Nothing stays constant,” Bill said."Everything changes."

At 16, my nephew Bill was a philosopher. I understood his point. When my children were small, I corrected their behavior when necessary. In fact, it was the “righteous” thing to do. Now they’re adults, and as much as it frustrates me, when I disapprove of something, the “righteous” thing to do is to mind my own business. At best, I can give my opinion once when asked. Otherwise, I have to keep quiet. I’m not sure what day the rules changed but they did change.

“That’s probably true, Bill, but only about earthly things. It isn’t true about God’s righteousness. God’s definition of right and wrong hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. Even societies who don’t follow our God, usually makes laws that resemble the Ten Commandments.”

The word “righteous” means morally upright, without guilt or sin. ( The 4th Beatitude says, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. It doesn’t say, blessed are those who are righteous. It goes on to promise to fill that hunger and thirst. The word hunger in the Greek actually means to be famished. If we’re famished for righteousness, our hunger and thirst will be satisfied.

“How can that be?” we question. “After all, none of us can be without sin. How can we ever be satisfied while we are still sinning?” The answer lies in the cross. Jesus is righteous and the cross makes us righteous. If we crave Jesus, our craving will be satisfied. If we follow Jesus, His path leads to righteousness.

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:6.

Matt 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. KJV

Allow yourself to be famished for Jesus.

• Pant for Jesus, the way a deer pants for water.

• Allow your hunger and thirst to be filled.

Morning Prayer

Ask God to help you hunger and thirst for righteousness.

• Thank Him for His promise to fill us.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

Are you righteous? Studies show that most people are righteous in their own eyes but don’t see others as righteous. Even when they see righteous behavior, they are suspicious of the motives behind the actions. There is an old saying that when we point the finger at others, we point three fingers at ourselves. A truth I’ve found for myself is that when I’m accusing others of something, I’m usually the one guilty of the very behavior I’m angry at them for. For today, let’s look at ourselves, our motives, and let others work on themselves.

As we have with the other Beatitudes, we are going to study different translations and paraphrases of Matthew 5:6.

Matt 5:6

Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied! AMP

You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. The Message

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. ESV

God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will receive it in full. NLT

What differences do you see?

• What do you think “right standing with God” means in the Amplified Bible?

• Have you ever felt completely satisfied?

Like many of the other Beatitudes, when Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:6, He was referring to ancient scripture. Read Isaiah 55:1-2.

Isa 55:1-2

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. NASU

What is the invitation for the thirsty?

• What is the invitation for those that have no money?

• What is the price for the wine and milk offered by God?

• What is the promise for the righteous?

The word righteousness is in the Bible 309 times. Read Psalms 89:14.

Ps 89:14

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; NASU

What is the foundation of God’s throne?

Read Psalms 106:3.

Ps 106:3

How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times! NASU

How is this similar to the 4th Beatitude?

Read Psalms 119:140-144.

Ps 119:140-144

Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it. I am small and despised, Yet I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth. Trouble and anguish have come upon me, Yet Your commandments are my delight. Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live. NASU

How does the Psalm writer feel about God’s word?

• How constant is God’s righteousness?

• Despite the troubles of the world, what can we delight in?

• What is righteous forever?

• What is the Psalm writer’s prayer?

We usually know what the righteous thing to do is but Jesus gives us a warning about our motives. Read Matthew 6:1-4.

Matt 6:1-4

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. NASU

What is the warning?

• What is the consequence of ignoring the warning?

• How are we supposed to practice righteousness?

God’s righteousness is constant. In fact, it is everlasting – constant in this world and the next. Seek righteousness and be blessed.


Years ago, a Christian mentor gave me an assignment. “I want you to do something nice for someone else every day. There’s a trick to this assignment. Keep your acts a secret. Don’t let anyone find out about them. If someone finds out, it doesn’t count.”

I was about to find out just how self-seeking I really was. Mystified, I couldn’t believe how hard his assignment was. I did many “nice” things for my husband but I always let him know about it. For example, I often had to put away his newspaper. I suppose it was a nice thing to do but what I really wanted was for him to put it away. That meant, every time I put the newspaper away, I let him know about it. I found out that I did almost nothing for the sheer joy of doing something for someone else. In fact, if I didn’t get the satisfaction of someone thanking me, I wasn’t sure what satisfaction I would have.

At first, I thought the nice things I did needed to be big. I tried to follow my mentor’s advice but when I did something big, people noticed. I gave showers for people at church, cooked food for the sick, and gave money to a beggar. Suddenly, I was hearing the word “thank you” more than ever but I was also exhausted. I enjoyed the attention but knew this wasn’t the point.

I went back to my mentor and complained. He laughed and said, “Cheryle, keep it simple. Pick up a sock and put it away. Flush a toilet in a public restroom. Pick up litter on the street.”

Why would I do things like that? I wondered. I was deeply ashamed when I realized that if no one found out about it, I had no interest in doing it. I had some spiritual work to do. My mentor helped me do some introspective confessional work and slowly I released my driving need for public affirmation. I began to follow my mentor’s simple advice and was amazed by what I found out. The simple act of secretly doing the right thing gave more satisfaction than the most public “thank you” I’d ever received. I also found out it was a lot less work.

I wish I could say that I’d never again hungered and thirsted for public approval but that isn’t true. What is true is that when I seek the approval of the world, my cravings are never satisfied. When I hunger and thirst after righteousness, I find satisfaction in the simplest things. My mentor taught me a wonderful secret. God’s satisfaction is better than anything the world could give me.

For the rest of the Lenten season, secretly, find something nice to do for someone everyday. Keep your acts simple but be diligent. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Blessed are the Meek

"Gi Gi," Noah demanded. "You're going the wrong way. You need to take 9A."

"Noah," I said. "I like taking Butler. I know that way better."

"But it's longer," he said. "It's not even a highway."

I went to laughing. Noah was only 6 and one of his favorite activities was to study maps. He had most of the major highways in the country memorized. Going 9A hadn’t occurred to me because the entrance from the mall was new and I wasn’t completely sure how to get there. I guess I could have asked Noah.

"Noah," I said. "Gi Gi doesn't always take the shortest way. She has ways she likes to drive. Besides, Butler is a highway.”

“No it’s not,” he said. “It has red lights.”

“Highway just means main road. Expressways don’t usually have red lights except on entrance and exit ramps but highways might or might not have red lights. Think about Phillips Highway. It is a main road but has red lights. Noah, you’re really smart but Gi Gi wants you to be humble too. I drive all over the country and know a lot about roads. Since you like roads, you could learn more about them from me if you let me teach you. Sometimes when people are very smart, they get arrogant and think they know everything. Do you know the word arrogant?”

He didn’t so I explained the difference between humility and arrogance. “To be humble is to be teachable. People who are smart and humble do great things because they never stop learning. Gi Gi wants you to always be learning.”

To be meek is to show patience and humility. The definition of humility is to demonstrate meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit and not be arrogant or prideful. My favorite definition of humility is teachable. I’ve also noticed that when I refuse God’s teaching, God kindly humiliates me. Humiliate means to lower ones pride, dignity, or self-respect. It usually takes a while for me to appreciate God’s kindness. (

The third Beatitude we will study is, “Blessed are the meek.” The promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. I guess inheriting the earth is worth a little humiliation.

Morning Meditation

Read Matthew 5:5.

Matt 5:5

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are — no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought. The Message

Allow yourself to be content with who you are.

• Think of everything you have and let yourself be grateful.

Morning Prayer

• Ask God to help you become humble without having to be humiliated.

• If you’re brave, pray for patience.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.

Morning Bible Study

Some confuse meekness with low self-esteem. When complimented on her cooking, my grandma would invariably point out what was wrong with it. We all smiled, knowing the food was delicious. I always wondered if she knew how good her food was.

I’ll share with you what I’ve observed about people who seem to be meek. They know who they are and are content with it. They don’t put on airs. Because they’re content with themselves, they are content with others, so people feel good when they’re around them. The meek aren’t surprised when they’re wrong and are willing to grow and change. Little embarrasses or surprises these paragons of virtue and they can easily laugh at themselves.

Compare and contrast the below translations and paraphrases of Matthew 5:5.

Matt 5:5

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. KJV

Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous-- with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth!


God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them. NLT

What do you think meek means?

• What behaviors have you observed from the meek?

• What do you think “inherit the earth” means?

As with other beatitudes, In Matthew 5:5, Jesus was quoting ancient words from the Bible. Read Psalms 27:11.

Ps 37:11

But the meek [in the end] shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. AMP

How is this similar to Matthew 5:5?

• What does it add?

There are similar passages in the New Testament. Read James 4:10.

James 4:10

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. NASU

Where are we to humble ourselves?

• What is God’s promise to us?

Read 1 Peter 3:8-9.

1 Peter 3:8-9

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. NASU

What kind of spirit are we to have?

• What are signs of that spirit?

• What is the promise?

And finally read the paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:5-7 from The Message.

1 Peter 5:5-7

And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for — God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people. So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. The Message

What should the young do?

• How should a leader act?

• Why are both of these signs of humility?

• What does God take delight in?

• What is the promise?

• How are we supposed to live?

Humility is both wonderful and elusive. Just as soon as you think you have it, its gone. There is a story that floats around the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Humility is critical to recovery in 12 Step recovery programs. An AA group decided to give a button to the man who was the most humble. When he wore the button to the next meeting, they took it away.


In my last career, it was easier to pretend I was important. I could dress up in a suit, stay in 5 Star Hotels, and look and act like the rest of the “successful” people. When you live in campgrounds, sometimes miss showers, and travel with a dog, you get a better picture of where you fit in this world.

I’m a mother and not above using coercion to spend time with my adult children. On the most recent missionary journey, I called my son. “Chris, Kelley visited me on this journey and so far, you haven’t. I realize you gave me a grandson and that’s a lot of points towards ‘favorite child status’ but all the little things Kelley does are starting to add up. If you aren’t careful, she’ll get ahead again.”

“Mom,” Chris laughed, “I’ll be in Los Angeles on business in two weeks. Why don’t you meet me there?” I was in North Dakota and it didn’t seem possible but I wasn’t passing up the rare opportunity to be alone with my son. Knowing I could do all things in Christ, I started driving like a mad woman.

“What about bringing Noah?” I asked hopefully. “I’ll take care of him.”

Mom, I’m not bringing Noah. I’ll have to be enough.”

“Will you stay in the camper?” I asked excitedly. Silence met me on the other end. Chris hates dirt, germs, heat, and bugs. He wears water shoes in the shower of a Hilton. He went on his first camping trip at 3 months and screamed the entire time. His attitude about camping never improved. While I waited for an answer, I knew he was picturing getting dressed for a business meeting at a campground bathhouse. The next time I heard from him, he had found a dog-friendly luxury hotel with wireless high-speed internet.

My first sign of trouble was when I pulled into the Embassy Suites at the Los Angeles Airport and saw a parking garage with a sign that said “6’ 6” Clearance.” Sighing, I pulled next to a sign that said “absolutely no parking” and went inside.

As I climbed out of Happy, the Bellman squinted, trying to read the words on Happy’s side. He must have decided I was a delivery truck and not a customer because he didn’t meet me with a cart or offer to help with luggage. I was relieved because I had no idea how I was going to get my stuff into the Embassy Suites. The only thing that resembled a suitcase was under the bench seat cushions. To get to it would require removing the bicycle on the back and laying the cushions on the ground. I was too intimidated by the formal Bellman to create such a scene.

Since Chris was stuck in the Atlanta airport, I had to register. For me, registering meant paying the $25 per night pet fee and signing a formal pet contract where I agreed to pay for damages, walk her in certain areas, and about 10 other legal points. Do I need my lawyer to travel with my dog? I wondered as I read and signed.

“Where do I park?” I asked. “My van won’t fit in your garage?” Notice that I didn’t say RV.

Your van won’t fit?” she asked incredulously.

OK, it’s an RV,” I confessed. “It’s over 8 feet tall.”

She stared and I felt myself withering. What was wrong? I wondered. I’d put on my best casual clothes. As I followed her eyes to my faded, wrinkled clothing with a stain on the shirt; I realized how hard campground Laundromats were on clothes. There was a shopping trip in my future. Finally, she said, “You’ll have to park on the street.” I supposed that was better than being told I’d have to enter by a side entrance.

“But there are no spots,” I argued, knowing parallel parking wasn’t my strong suit.

“You’ll have to wait for one to open up. We have no other parking. Be sure you check signs for street cleaning times and move your RV at the right time or it will be towed.”

Great, I thought as I went back in search of a parking place. Finally, I found a spot along the park in front of the hotel. This must be where I agreed to walk Belle. The sign said “Street Cleaning, Tuesday 8-10 AM.” Since it was Wednesday, I was safe on that front.

Next came the difficult task of getting Happy level. If Happy isn’t level, Happy isn’t happy, and Happy shuts down the refrigerator for revenge. Briefly, I considered carrying the refrigerated food into the room but the projected humiliation of carrying multiple bags of groceries through the lush lobby stopped me. As I pulled forward, backward, and realigned along the curb looking at the levels, I wondered if the Bellman was watching. I refused to get out the greasy blocks and put them under the tires.

After parking, I sat down to decide the best way to get my stuff into the hotel without making a spectacle. Aha, I thought looking at the travel bag holding my devotional books. It had a little room left. If I finished filling it up and took it to the room, I could return with an empty bag for a second trip. As I packed, Belle began barking frantically, jumping up and down because she didn’t want to be left behind. I tried to calm her worries. “Don’t worry. You’re going with me.” Could the Bellman hear Belle’s barking? Was there something about barking in the contract?

I looked at Belle’s dog dish, realizing I should take that up on my first trip. It’s a clever design, made for traveling. One side holds water and the other side is for food. Knowing I would be there 2 nights, I filled the dog food side to its capacity.

As I climbed out of Happy, I worried I was carrying too much stuff but I had a sore foot and wanted to walk as little as possible. I left the RV, dragging a nervous Belle on a leash, a rolling computer bag holding an overstuffed and unzipped travel bag, a purse, and a dog dish.

Trying to get the hotel door open was a frustrating battle with balance that I lost. The travel bag went tumbling off the computer, spilling unmentionables on the pavement. Quickly, I stuffed everything back in, casting furtive glances for the now missing Bellman.

As I went inside, I realized I didn’t know where the elevators were. Not in a mood to go on a hunt, I walked back to the front desk, to the same woman who had checked me in. I looked at the check in line and decided I could ask my quick question without waiting in line again. “Where are the elevators?”

“What room are you in?” she asked. I told her and she pointed. As I walked off, a glaring man stomped to the counter, clearly wondering why I had jumped ahead. Belle saw the scary stranger huff up and bolted, catching me by surprise. As I jerked to balance myself, the dog dish went flying, throwing dog food all over the lobby and everyone in line. As I looked at the dog food, covering a 15-foot square area, I didn’t know what to do. I knelt down and starting picking it up with my hands. “Maybe she’s hungry and will help you clean it up,” the scary man suggested, as he brushed himself off.

Just leave it alone,” the woman said from behind the desk as she picked up a microphone. “We’ll send someone to clean it up.”

Still on the floor, I looked up at the woman behind the desk and everyone in line and said, “I used to know how to act in hotels like this.” My humbling realization was that I was no longer like the sophisticated business people in that line. I was a woman on the floor, cleaning up dog food. The worst part of the realization was that instead of being embarrassed, I was amused. I loved my life as an executive, but I also love my new life. If inheriting the earth includes cleaning up dog food, I’m OK with that.

Do you know who you are today? Are you at ease with it? As you go through your day:

If something embarrasses you, be teachable and look for the lesson.

• If you’re self conscious, ask God to help you accept who you are.

• If you find yourself putting on airs, notice whom you are trying to impress and ask God why.

• Be yourself. It’s good enough.